Way back in October at Media Day, Lady Lion coach Coquese Washington said one of the most important areas the Lady Lions would need to focus on to win the Big Ten was rebounding.
Last Wednesday, when there were only three games left in the regular season, coach Coquese Washington described her team’s rebounding as up and down and said it had room for improvement.
After the No. 11 Lady Lions (22-5, 12-3 Big Ten) absolutely dominated the boards in Monday’s 84-66 win against No. 8 Ohio State (23-4, 10-4) to clinch at least a share of the Big Ten title, Washington’s assessment of her team’s rebounding was quite a bit more positive.
“It’s incredible,” Washington said of Penn State’s 60 rebounds (31 on defense, 29 on offense) compared to Ohio State’s 32 (24 and 8) on Monday. “And that was one of the things we talked about going into this game. We had a few keys that we wanted to really key on and rebounding was certainly one of them.”
Despite only dressing a season-low eight players for their biggest game of the year, the Lady Lions used an incredible day on the boards to outscore the Buckeyes 29-0 in second chance points.
Three Lady Lions had double-doubles — center Nikki Greene (25 points, 15 rebounds), forward Mia Nickson (18 points, 15 rebounds), and even guard Maggie Lucas (12 points, 10 rebounds) for the first time in her career.
Those three players alone out-rebounded the Buckeyes.
“We just executed the gameplan,” Greene said. “Whatever coach said in practice, we just kind of took it to heart. We knew that this game was one of the big ones, so we tried to take advantage of every minute possible.”
When Ohio State coach Jim Foster said his players “didn’t compete on the boards,” he wasn’t lying.
On several occasions, the Lady Lions pulled down more than one offensive rebound on the same possession, leading to the huge second chance point differential.
At times, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that either Nickson or Greene would pull down a board after a missed shot, as if the Buckeyes simply had no chance.
“That’s just our job,” Greene said. “If [Nickson and I] aren’t crashing, we don’t have anyone to crash. We take that to heart, and that’s what we do.”
Last week, Nickson said the rebounding of the Lady Lions could aptly be described as “clutch.” The team seems to have a penchant for pulling down big boards late in games.
For instance, Nickson’s two big boards on consecutive possessions in the waning minutes of a road tilt at Minnesota on Feb. 5 were critical for the victory.
Though no clutch, late rebounding was needed against the Buckeyes, Nickson said that’s been an area of emphasis.
“Coach always instills in us that we always have to play until the final whistle,” Nickson said. “And that means securing the ball.”
The destruction of Ohio State was proof of the effect excellent rebounding can have on the outcome of a game. When Penn State out-rebounds its opponents this season, its record is a sparkling 15-1.
All of those numbers, along with a Big Ten trophy, made Washington a very happy postgame coach.
“They really just dominated the inside,” Washington said. “That’s one thing I’m really pleased with. We just played the game smart, and we took what was available. Our post really stepped up.”